Caesar the chimpanzee and James Franco hug in 'Rise of the Planet of the Apes'.
(20th Century Studios)

What Happened To James Franco in ‘Planet Of The Apes’?

If you’re buying a ticket for Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes hoping to see James Franco in action, well I’ve got some bad news. The Disaster Artist star will not appear in the upcoming film for several reasons.

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The first is that Kingdom takes place 300 years after the events of War for the Planet of the Apes (2017), kicking off a brand-new Apes trilogy with new actors and characters. The second reason is, of course, Franco’s ending in Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011).

What happens to Will Rodman?

In Rise, Franco plays Will Rodman, a chemist developing a viral-based drug that will hopefully cure Alzheimer’s disease. The research is personal for Will, as his father Charles (John Lithgow) suffers from the disease. Will tests the drug,  ALZ-112, on chimpanzees and is amazed to see their intelligence grow. But when a chimp named Bright Eyes goes on a destructive rampage, Will’s boss pulls the funding and orders the test animals to be euthanized.

When Will discovers that Bright Eyes’ rampage was due to recently giving birth, he adopts her baby a chimp named Caesar. As Caesar grows up, he displays remarkable intelligence and quickly becomes a member of the Rodman family. When Will’s bosses test a more powerful gaseous version of the drug, ALZ-113, they discover that it is deadly to humans. Will quits his job, but Caesar steals the new drug and uses it to raise other apes’ intelligence. Caesar and Will reunite in the Redwood forest, where Will begs him to come home. Caesar replies that he is already home, and they hug before parting. Unbeknownst to Will, the virus spreads and soon becomes a global pandemic.

While we don’t see Will in the sequel, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014), it is implied that he died of the Simian Flu. Caesar returns to his old home to find photos and an old video of Will on a camcorder. While Will’s death is never explicitly confirmed, we can garner as much from the FEMA sign posted on his door.

Originally, Will Rodman was supposed to die defending Caesar during the film’s climax. That scene was even filmed but was later changed in post-production.

(featured image: 20th Century Fox)


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Author
Chelsea Steiner
Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.